40th Anniversary

SC Humanities has been inspiring, engaging, and enriching South Carolinians for 40 years, and we will be commemorating this achievement throughout 2013! A 40th Anniversary Celebration took place on Thursday, February 21, 2013 in Columbia at the Hilton Columbia Center, and other events will take place throughout the year. More details will be posted soon, and we hope you will celebrate with us!

40th Anniversary Celebration
Thursday, February 21, 2013

SC Humanities By the Numbers

40 years and….

  • 18,500 copies sold of the South Carolina Encyclopedia and 3 e-books based on the South Carolina Encyclopedia
  • 1,905 Grants awarded for a total of $7,625,640 distributed in South Carolina
  • 172 Board Members, 21 Board Chairs
  • 62 Governor’s Award in the Humanities winners
  • 19 South Carolina Humanities Festivals
  • 17 South Carolina Book Festivals
  • 9 office locations
  • 3 traveling Smithsonian Institution exhibits that visited 22 South Carolina communities
  • 3 different names for the organization (South Carolina Committee for the Humanities, South Carolina Humanities Council, and SC Humanities)
  • 2 Executive Directors
  • 1 goal of inspiring, engaging, and enriching South Carolinians with public humanities programs

SC Humanities secured federal funds from the National Endowment for the Humanities in 1972 and awarded its first grant in 1973, an award of $500 to the Orangeburg Adult Education Advisory Council for a public seminar titled “Developing Positive Community Relations.”

Originally called the South Carolina Committee for the Humanities, the organization was run by volunteers until 1975 when the first Executive Director, or Executive Secretary as he was called then, was hired. Dr. Leland H. Cox, Jr. was Executive Director until 1988, the same year that the organization’s name was changed to the South Carolina Humanities Council.

In the early 1970s, the focus of the South Carolina Committee for the Humanities’ funding was on public policy issues, as dictated by the National Endowment for the Humanities, which sought to use the humanities to shed light on contemporary issues. By 1976, the South Carolina Committee for the Humanities was allowed more leeway in the subject matter of grant-supported programs, and projects like oral histories, interpretive exhibits, documentaries about South Carolina culture, literary conferences, and other humanities-based public programs became the norm, as they still are today.

The South Carolina Committee for the Humanities originally focused entirely on regrants to other organizations around the state, but by the 1980s, they ventured into offering packaged programs initiated and coordinated by staff. The Let’s Talk About It: Reading and Discussion Program and the Speakers Bureau, two programs that are still in use in 2013, were developed in the 1980s. In addition, outside funders were sought to conduct two statewide projects: a school-based program called Project REACH that was supported by the Rockefeller Foundation and a series of public health conferences funded by the Duke Endowment.

Dr. Randy L. Akers was named Executive Director in 1988 and ushered in several exciting new initiatives. Under his leadership, South Carolina Humanities Council received its only funding to date from the state legislature of South Carolina to conduct a one-time survey of South Carolinians on the topic “The Greying of South Carolina” which resulted in recommendations to legislators about how to effectively interact with the state’s large numbers of aging citizens. Another major project supported by outside funders followed, an anthology on Religion in South Carolina funded by the Lilley Foundation. Themed requests-for-proposals focused on the devastating effects of Hurricane Hugo and on “Traditions in Transition.”

The 1990s were a busy time for South Carolina Humanities Council. Extensive funding cuts to the National Endowment for the Humanities caused the Council’s staff and programming to be reorganized; nevertheless, three major annual programs were introduced in that decade that continue to this day. The Governor’s Awards in the Humanities were first awarded in 1991 with the support of Governor Carol Campbell, and 62 awards have been given between 1991 and 2012. The first South Carolina Humanities Festival was held in Beaufort in 1993 in honor of the South Carolina Humanities Council’s 20th anniversary, and the event became an annual one that has highlighted 15 different communities around the state. Finally, the South Carolina Humanities Council’s signature event, the South Carolina Book Festival, debuted in the spring of 1997 with an audience of over 2,000 at the Koger Center in Columbia. The 17th annual festival is scheduled for May 17 – 19, 2013. To read a more complete history of the South Carolina Book Festival, please visit www.scbookfestival.org.

As the South Carolina Humanities Council approached its 30th Anniversary, the Board of Directors approved a plan to rebrand the organization, and the new name of SC Humanities was introduced, along with a new logo, mission, vision, and values. The new name heralded a variety of exciting new programmatic ventures, the most important of which was the publication of The South Carolina Encyclopedia, the Council’s largest and most visible product, that leveraged an eight-year process and $1,000,000 fundraising campaign into an excellent one-volume compendium of state history and culture. The South Carolina Encyclopedia was published in 2006 by the University of South Carolina Press and has sold over 18,000 copies, and it is currently in the process of being adapted into e-books that will extend its reach.

Another exciting partnership that was established in the early part of the last decade was with the Smithsonian Institution’s Traveling Exhibition Service division. Through a program called Museum on Main Street, SC Humanities was able to bring high-quality, traveling Smithsonian exhibitions to rural communities in South Carolina. The first exhibit that toured the state was Barn Again! in 2004, and two additional exhibits followed: Key Ingredients: America by Food (2008 – 2009) and New Harmonies: Celebrating American Roots Music (2011 – 2013). Overall, these traveling Smithsonian exhibitions have reached more than 200,000 South Carolinians, and SC Humanities is pleased to be bringing a fourth Museum on Main Street exhibit to the state in 2015.

SC Humanities also joined a number of other state humanities councils around the country in offering the Literature and Medicine: Humanities at the Heart of Healthcare program in South Carolina hospitals. Developed by the Maine Humanities Council, this award-winning program is a reading and discussion program for healthcare professionals designed to improve empathy for patients and job satisfaction, among other goals. SC Humanities has run 8 Literature & Medicine programs in 3 cities since 2005.

As new programs came and went, SC Humanities’s Grants Program remained a backbone of the organization’s outreach into South Carolina communities. Thousands of Major Grants, Mini Grants, Planning Grants, and Council Program Grants have been awarded during the Council’s history, and hundreds of resources and products have resulted, from award-winning documentaries, to traveling exhibits, to curriculums for students and interactive online maps.

Throughout all of these changes and developments, new programs and new leadership, SC Humanities has remained true to its original purpose: to bring the humanities to the people of South Carolina. As the tagline reads, SC Humanities is inspiring, engaging, and enriching, and we look forward to another 40 years of celebrating and sharing the history and culture of the Palmetto State.